Nowhere can this effect be seen more clearly than by the trustees of the Village Hall and Recreation Ground Charity. At the AGM last night, we heard how the village halls are in urgent need of repair. But no-one quite knows how much to spend on the repairs: whether to do them in some style (environmentally friendly technologies) in preparation for long-term use. Or whether to adopt a more bishbosh approach in confidence that community facilities will soon be moving elsewhere.
The repairs that are currently needed: a new roof on the small village hall (est. cost: £10,000); two new boilers (£4,000); new emergency lighting (£1,000). There’s also a need for new fencing on the children’s play area (£7,000).
My view is that if the village hall was confirmed as the long term location for community facilities, then environmental technologies must be considered: a biomass boiler or ground-source heat pump to take advantage of the government’s renewable heat incentive; solar panels on the roof of the small hall to access the feed-in tariff.
Tomorrow, however, sees the publication of Imperial’s masterplan for the Wye3 area and possibly this will include an idea that has been given initial support by the parish council: that the Grade 1 listed buildings (the college closest to the Church) should be converted into community meeting space.
If this was to happen, the viability of the existing hall would be in doubt – especially as the neighbouring community of Godmersham (population 366 but with seemingly little indecision) is about to open a modern, purpose-built village hall which will also be competing for bookings.
Unfortunately the indecision looks set to continue. Even if ‘community use’ is in the masterplan for the Grade 1 buildings, there will be plenty of work to do to check that the idea is viable. Maintenance of the existing space is expensive but how about maintenance on a Grade 1 listed building?
We’d also need to make sure that the users of the village hall get to see round this alternative space to see whether they think it suits their purposes. (I’m not sure badminton would work in the Grade 1 buildings for example?) And we’d need to apply for funds for proper conversion.
Only by jumping through such hoops can we make any decision. In the meantime, it wouldn’t seem sensible to spend too much money on the current village hall.